José Serrano

Two Cries for Freedom: Gypsy Flamenco From the Prisons of Spain [ROIR]

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In early 1997, the Spanish government and Spain's government-accredited flamenco clubs (known as peñas) sponsored a contest for flamenco artists who were serving time in Spanish prisons. The winners would get the chance to do a studio session and have sentences reduced. Over 150 inmates participated, and the winners were Jose Serrano and Antonio el Agujetas (both of them Gypsies). The latter was serving 15 years on drug charges, while Serrano had served 18 years of a 25-year sentence for homicide. Accompanied by armed guards, the two were transported to a studio in Granada to record Two Cries of Freedom. The release of this CD raises a number of questions -- should a convicted killer like Serrano get a chance to record an album? And should drugs even be criminalized in the first place? At any rate, both singers deliver emotional, impassioned performances. In contrast to the nuevo flamenco that was incredibly popular among young Spanish audiences, Serrano and El Agujetas take a traditional approach to Spanish Gypsy music. One may notice some similarities between their singing and vocal styles of the Middle East; this is because the Moorish influence in Spain remained centuries after the early Catholic church forced Muslims to flee the country. [Licensed to ROIR from Spain's Big Bang label, Two Cries for Freedom first came out in the U.S. in the fall of 1998.]

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